Friday, October 08, 2010

The lessons of J Street's troubles

My JC column this week is on the lessons of J Street's disastrous few weeks:

It was miserable timing. Two weeks ago, the JC revealed that a number of activists in the UK were trying to establish a left-leaning Israel group, which would support Israel but not shy away from criticising its government. The initiative, which is being spearheaded by Hannah Weisfeld, formerly of the Jewish Community Centre for London, was directly inspired by the liberal American lobby group, J Street, which, since it was founded in 2008, has increasingly challenged the more conservative Jewish establishment.

And then, last week, J Street crumbled. The Washington Times revealed that a large chunk of its funding - $750,000 since 2008 - came from the family of Jewish financier George Soros, known for his anti-Israel views. At the height of the second intifada, he blamed the rise in antisemitism on the Israeli government; he also declared that he does not "deny the Jews their right to a national existence - but I don't want to be part of it".

J Street had consistently denied that they had received his money but it seems that they had blatantly lied. Many of J Street's supporters were furious; the group, which had promised "ethical" criticism of Israel, had no ethical credibility itself.

An additional revelation, that J Street had facilitated meetings between Washington officials and Judge Richard Goldstone, lead author of the damning UN report on Operation Cast Lead, seemed to doom J Street's brand.

A couple of weeks ago, our own local doveish activists were hoping that some of J Street's magic would rub off on them. Now, they must learn the lessons of its downfall.

Read the rest and come back here to comment...

No comments: